Last Thursday, I got a call from Bone and Joint letting me know to arrive at 12:45 for my injection. Since this is considered a ‘surgical procedure’ I have to arrive in a fasting state. I tried not to freak out on the phone and I asked if there was any way I could get an earlier arrival time. She explained to me that they had to make sure the diabetic patients were seen first (completely understandable), but that there were a few patients who hadn’t called her back yet. She checked the schedule and was able to find me a 10:00 time slot. Much better. I knew that the procedure would take roughly 90 minutes to 2 hours, so I figured that I would get to eat by lunch time. And I figured that I could always get up early and have a cup of coffee (clear liquids are allowed up to 4 hours before the procedure time).
On the morning of the procedure, I got up early (4:30) to have my coffee as I drove to the pool to get a swim workout in. I managed 2000 yards, which is my longest swim workout to date!
When I got home, I got the kids up and fed and took Jaden to summer school. My dad was going to be my driver and he got to my house around 9:00. My official check in time was 10:00, but we got there about 15 minutes early. I was super tired. I had actually fallen asleep in the car on the way over. That must be from getting up so stinkin’ early and going for a long swim.
I sat in the waiting area for about 10 minutes before they called me back. First, I had to pee in a cup to make sure I wasn’t pregnant. Then, they took me to one of the prep rooms and got a set of vitals and went over all my medications. They asked if I wanted some Valium to help me relax. The nurse explained that it would also help the muscles in my lower back relax when the needles were inserted. I agreed to the Valium mostly because I wasn’t sure what to expect and didn’t want to get in there and end up panicking.
The Valium was delightful. About 10 minutes after I took it, one of the nurses came in to check on me. I had just been sitting in a wheel chair, but I asked for a bed so that I could take a nap. She brought me a bed and a warm blanket and I fell asleep almost immediately. At some point, the doctor came in to review the procedure with me. She wasn’t in long, but she told me that she had one patient ahead of me and then it would be my turn.
I fell back asleep.
Then the nurses came and and woke me up and rolled me down the hall to the procedure room. I transferred to a different bed and was positioned on my stomach. They put a belt around my legs for safety. They took another set of vitals. They positioned the Xray machine over my lumbar spine so that the doctor could see on the monitor exactly where she was going to be inserting the needle.
I was bummed because I couldn’t see anything. I really would have liked to have been able to watch what she was doing.
They cleaned by back with a non-iodine solution (I’m allergic to iodine). Before the procedure began, I had to push up on my arms to extend my back, leaning slightly to the right and rate my pain. I think it was about a 4/5.
Then the doctor positioned herself for the first injection. She said that I would feel a ‘pin prick’ when the needle went in. I’m not a huge fan of needles and this was more than just a ‘pin prick.’ Then she said “you’ll feel some pressure.” What I think she meant to say was ‘you are going to feel like someone is pulling the nerve from your lower back down your leg.’ “Some pressure” and what I felt are two very different things.
That isn’t to say that it was excruciatingly painful. It was really uncomfortable. It did cause me to squirm a little and grind my teeth and make what I’m sure were really attractive grimacing faces.
Then she repeated the procedure two more times. She injected into L3, L4, and L5. After each injection, she would step away and the radiology tech would snap a fun Xray picture of where the medicine went in.
When they were finished, they cleaned off my back and put a couple of those small round band-aids where the needle pricks were. Then she had me push up on my arms to extend my back and rate my pain again. I think it was about a 3/4.
I rolled back onto the other bed and sat up. The doctor showed me each of the pictures that they X-ray tech had taken of the medicine going into each of the nerves. Pretty neat, but not as cool as being able to watch it live. From the time they wheeled me into the procedure room, until they wheeled me back out was about 25 minutes. The process doesn’t take long at all.
They wheeled me back into the prep room and called my dad back in to go over the post-op instructions. They gave me a sheet of paper with a pain chart on it where I had to rate my pain every half hour for the first two hours and then every hour until 8:00 pm.
I was still a little groggy from the Valium, but I think I had a handle on the instructions. Basically, no heavy lifting, no strenuous activity, drink lots of fluids; just return to normal activities being sure to pay attention to how my back feels.
I walked out to the car and my dad and I stopped so that I could get a cup of coffee (delicious) and then we went to grab some lunch. It was about 12:45 when we sat down to eat. I was famished. By the time I got home, I was thinking that the procedure had worked pretty well. I was definitely in less pain. After another hour or so, I was thinking that any pain relief I was feeling was just the remnants of the Valium. And, I could hardly keep my eyes open, so I had to lie down for a bit.
As I was lying down, Tim came in to ask how I was doing. I got kinda depressed because I really thought the pain relief would be more than what it was. I’m hanging my hopes on this treatment plan and I am just not sure that it’s working.
Overall, the procedure was pretty easy to endure. But I have no idea why I had to be there at 10:00 if I didn’t get wheeled back to the procedure room until 11:30. Do they figure that everyone wants to take a 45 minute nap. Also, I think I might skip the Valium next time. I have been completely useless since I got home.
I will be doing this procedure again in two weeks. Technically, this is a diagnostic procedure to see if my pain responds to the nerve block before the do something more permanent. I was really looking forward to this and instead of being hopeful for the future, I am just depressed.